General Question

Why is it important for American Mensa to have more than 50,000 members?

Russ Bakke

50,000 is rather arbitrary but larger is better. The more members we have, the more members are likely to turn out at events (I think our percentage of active members is dropping, but that just illustrates my point; we need a larger base to provide the same number of active members).

Some have suggested that if we had, say, 10,000 members we would return to the atmosphere we had when we had 10,000 members in the early `70's. I don't think so. Society has changed, and we have to change with it. The Internet has resulted in a practice called "cocooning", where people sit at home and use their computers to surf the net, chat, email, etc. rather than leave their homes to find entertainment. I think this is why our percentage of active members is dropping. We need to reach out to the younger, more Internet-active prospects, and keep them once they've been recruited.

As a sidelight, we get three votes on the International Board of Directors for the first 5,000 members, and one more vote for every 5,000 over that. We get one National Representative (NatRep) for every three votes or fraction thereof. Thus at 50,000 members we get 12 votes on IBD and 4 NatReps; at 55,000 we'd get 13 votes and another NatRep. But this is of minor importance.

Sander Rubin

I have never found it useful to set a numerical goal as a basis for policy-making. Numbers are essential for evaluating policies after the fact, but not as a priori objectives.

The goals of a society are qualitative. In the case of Mensa, members come first and the goal is to provide satisfactions that individuals cannot achieve in isolation. Growth of Mensa is a source of satisfactions in — at least — two ways: economic and "ecological." There is a fixed cost to running a society regardless of how many members there be. Absorbing that cost over a larger number of members reduces the cost per member and is the key to lowering the dues for each member while maintaining services.

The other source of increased satisfaction is essentially qualitative, although it connects with numbers. The essence of Mensa is the opportunity for making connections among its members. The more members, the greater the diversity and the better the chances of making compatible and lasting connections. Growth creates a "virtuous circle (or cycle)."

Numbers are measures, not goals. After the fact, one can evaluate the wisdom of policies and the effectiveness of performance by looking first at the retention rate and then at the recruitment rate. God, of course and as always, is in the details, but unless the overview is sound the details won't work for you.

Specific Question, Bakke:
In the past, you have voted to eliminate the print version of InterLoc. Is this creating two classes of Mensa members, those with net access and those without? Should it be that Internet access is a requirement for Mensa local officers, who are the target audience of InterLoc?

I may have to reconsider that vote, the new editor has done such a wonderful job. I’ll note that email access has been a requirement of AMC membership for about ten years, but we are far from ready to make it a requirement for local officers. Everything I’ve seen says that about 15-20% of our members do not have Internet access. To require it for local officers would more likely force those officers out rather than force them to get it.

Rather than create two classes of members, I thought we could have the office print and mail a few paper copies on request. But given those percentages, we’d either do a LOT of (expensive) custom printing and mailing, or cut 15% from the subscriber list. I don’t think either is acceptable.

Specific Question, Rubin:
There have been several instances of people asking you questions about your positions and receiving “see the writings on my website” as a reply. How do you reconcile the educational aspect of being Chairman with the fact that a number of Mensa members do not have and may not want access to the Internet?

Yes, I frequently invite correspondents to visit my website. I don’t use the web exclusively (I can walk and chew gum). I have written for Going Forward. I have established the M-Pol list , which is minimally moderated by four other people, to provide for open discussion of Mensa politics. I answer letters with letters and discuss issues on the telephone. I use all media available to me and, as AMC Chairman, would respect the reasonable expectations and preferences of all members, and would use The Bulletin and InterLoc appropriately. That I do A does not imply that I cannot or will not also do B.

There are compelling reasons for heavy (not exclusive) reliance on a website.

Economy of time and effort.

  1. Integrity of discourse. Since the access is public I cannot tell one story to one correspondent and a different one to another.
  2. Consistency of context. A question comes from a person whose background I may not know. Since meaning depends on context, I cannot be sure of the full meaning of the question or how the correspondent will interpret my answer. By referring to my website, I hope to provide the questioner with access to my context.
  3. Facility for the reader to dig deeper.
  4. I understand the web to be a preferred medium for the younger members now joining Mensa who will benefit from learning background.

While all of us have quick, well-functioning minds, each of us has a unique combination of skills, values, conceptions. Mensa will work much better if we respect our differences. I would eschew making demands, rules, or directives. Instead, I suggest that we both ask and tell one another using whatever media we find convenient and economical.

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